Such is the case for The Wolfpack, an intimate, engrossing documentary by first-time director Crystal Moselle about a group of brothers who have lived much their existence in captivity, perched high above society in an apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
The Angulo boys, their sister, and their mother live under the tyranny of their father, a megalomaniac with a God complex who imprisons his family under the guise of protecting them from an eroding, immoral outside world. The father is a strange bird– a man who believes that he’s enlightened with a perspective on life that few if any are gifted enough to see. He advises his children to grow their hair long and names them in Sanskrit, the oldest language known to man. He doesn’t work in protest of the modern world and is the only member of his family to leave the confines of the apartment, doing so sparingly to retrieve food and supplies.
In exchange for their freedom and obedience, their father provides the Angulo boys with the gift of movies, which become their entertainment, schooling, and pseudo religion. The boys tirelessly transcribe scripts, ingeniously craft costumes and props from household supplies, and swede scenes from their favorite flicks to pass the time. But as the boys enter adolescence and start to question their artificial boundaries, a revolution within the four walls of their apartment becomes inevitable.
The Wolfpack is a small story that packs a powerful punch. It’s a deeply personal account of incredibly odd circumstances, told mostly through home movies and interviews that occur while our characters undergo their emotional transformations.
These are weird, uncomfortable, and brilliant young men, which make them all the more compelling to watch. The boys’ ingenuity is astounding, fashioning detailed costumes out of cereal boxes and yoga mats. They’re also very eloquent, free from the filler words polluting the world around them. But their sheltered lives lead them to make some bizarre decisions when confronted with feelings they don’t yet understand. The result is surreal; a simple stroll down the street is living dangerously. It’s simultaneously maddening and enviable; these boys approach the world with a fresh and positive curiosity, finding beauty in the most mundane of tasks. These simple character beats may seem negligible to the audience, but in the world of the film, they’re profound discoveries.
Despite the lack of an earth-shattering change or resolution to our characters’ stories, the 80 minutes we spend with The Wolfpack is a unique, fascinating time well spent.